Ruby Throated Hummingbird Information, Photos, and Facts
An elusive creature of gentle beauty, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird reminds us to seize the moment and appreciate the little things that make life wonderful.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are among the smallest of birds, but are one of the most enduring fliers. They are capable of flapping their wings over 50 times a second, and are the only birds that can fly backwards. American Expedition is proud to present information, facts, and photos of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.
Ruby Throated Hummingbird Information
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds measure 3-4 inches long from beak to tail. Typically, the adult females are larger than adult males. The male hummingbird has an iridescent red throat while the female’s is a dull white. They both have metallic green backs and long, black bills. The adult male’s tail feathers are dark, pointed, and forked. The female’s tail is fan-shaped with rounded feathers that have white tips on the outer edges.
During breeding season, the male birds will claim territory and court females that enter it. After the birds mate, the female builds a nest. The female will pick a spot that is very high off the ground and sheltered from wind. Many times she will pick a spot where tree branches split into a "y." Hummingbirds will build their nests from soft materials like lichen, moss, willows, and other plant materials. If they can find it, they will also use dryer lint and cotton. Hummingbirds glue these materials together using spider webs.
A female hummingbird will take about a week to build a nest while eggs are growing inside her. Once the nest is complete, she will lay the eggs (usually 1-3), which will take about two weeks to incubate. During the incubation period she will stay with the eggs about 70% of the time, using the rest of the time to look for food. The female will raise their young alone, and the nestling phase lasts anywhere from two weeks to one month. It is possible for a female to have several broods in a year’s time. The average lifespan of a hummingbird is 5-9 years in the wild.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Facts
- Hummingbirds have highly specialized, iridescent feathers that give off a metallic sheen. Their feathers refract light like tiny prisms.
- The iridescent sheen of hummingbird feathers comes from the bottom third of their feathers, but appears to cover the whole bird due to the close overlapping of feathers.
- The hummingbird’s brain is about 4% of its body weight, which is the largest proportion of brain to body weight in the avian world.
- Hummingbirds have an excellent memory helping them remember food sources from previous years.
- Hummingbirds can calculate how long it will take a flower to refill with nectar after drinking based on previous experiences with similar flowers.
- Hummingbirds have much different senses than humans. They can see spectrums of light that humans cannot, such as ultraviolet light. They can see things at further distances than humans, and can hear better. Interestingly, they do not have a sense of smell.
- Hummingbirds are the only birds able to fly backwards.
- Hummingbirds can hover in mid-air by flapping their wings over 50 times per second.
- Hummingbirds are omnivores.
- With the exception of breeding season, hummingbirds are quite solitary birds.
- Hummingbird nests are very difficult to spot.
- Nests are built by females after migrating to breeding grounds and are extremely small and well hidden.
- Because of their fast breathing rate, fast heartbeat, and high body temperature, they need to consume about two-thirds of their body weight every day.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Habitat
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are found in the woodlands of the eastern half of the United States from March through May. They migrate north from Mexico and Central America where they spend the winter months. Some hummingbirds may fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during these winter migrations.
What Do Hummingbirds Eat?
Hummingbirds drink nectar, a sweet liquid found inside certain flowers. In their constant quest for “fuel,” these birds may visit up to 1,000 flowers in a single day. For protein, they will eat spiders and insects, often catching gnats and other small flying insects in mid-air. They will also pull insects and spiders directly from a spider web.
Tips For Feeding & Attracting Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds
- Hummingbirds can be extremely loyal to feeding sites, so planting a garden with flowers every year can be a good way to attract repeat visitors.
- Hummingbirds are attracted to red, but their food does not have to be red itself. The color of the feeder will be enough to attract them.
- It is a common belief that the red food dye can be harmful to hummingbirds, but evidence is inconclusive. It is still probably a good idea not to use artificial coloring for feeding hummingbirds.
- You can make your own hummingbird nectar by using a 1:4 ratio of sugar to water.
- Do not use honey to feed hummingbirds. Honey can promote the growth of a fungus that can kill hummingbirds.
- Make sure to change the food in your hummingbird feeders regularly so the food doesn't have a chance to ferment.
- Hummingbirds need a source of water and misters that they can fly through.
- Don't use too many pesticides if you want your home to be a good place for hummingbirds. Hummingbirds need insects for protein, and pesticides sprayed directly on flowers can be ingested by hummingbirds and cause sickness and death.
Hummingbirds spend an average of 10-15% of their day feeding, and 75-80% resting, sitting, and digesting their food.
Because of their fast breathing rate, fast heartbeat, and high body temperature, hummingbirds need to consume about two-thirds of their body weight every day.
Hummingbirds can hover in mid-air by flapping their wings over 50 times per second.
Hummingbirds have highly specialized, iridescent feathers that give off a metallic sheen. Their feathers refract light like tiny prisms.
Hummingbirds are the only birds able to fly backwards.
Hummingbirds can calculate how long it will take a flower to refill with nectar after drinking based on previous experiences with similar flowers.
If you leave a sugary drink outside, do not be surprised if a hummingbird steals a sip!
With the exception of breeding season, hummingbirds are quite solitary birds.